Having owned and run a successful website design and digital marketing company for over a decade, I’ve seen many changes in the digital marketing industry, especially with respect to SEO (search engine optimization). And when talking about SEO—whether on-page or off-page — it is impossible to overstate the importance of content marketing and link building
In this article, I’m going to focus on off-page SEO. In particular, I’ll look at how we can use content guest blogs to establish backlinks to our sites.
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Let me start by asking you this question: What criteria and metrics do you use to determine which websites will generate the best SEO results from your guest blogs?
If you said that you look at its niche category compared to your website, its domain authority metrics (such as PA/DA, or UR/DR from Ahrefs), and its monthly web traffic, you are getting close–but not close enough to help you select the best site for your guest blog(s).
To get the most out of your time, money, and effort in guest blog link-building, you need to find a strategy that puts the wind at your back, helping you move forward with ease as time goes on—rather than a strategy that will have you walking into the wind.
Let’s put that metaphor into a real-life situation. Let’s say a guest blog link builder named Tiko searches every week for backlink opportunities in the niches of real estate, home improvement, and home financing for his clients. Tiko finds many sites in those niches with strong UR/DR. These sites allow him to guest post for $95 to $190 per article with a do-follow backlink. As soon as Tiko pays, the site’s owner posts any material Tiko sends her way, as long as the article passes the Copyscape scan.
Over the years, Tiko has used this strategy with fairly good results. Recently, though, his return on investment is deteriorating. Why? Because Google’s search engine (turbo-boosted by AI) is getting better at recognizing low-quality content on such websites.
As for human readers, let’s use our common sense. If users come across a website replete with poorly written guest post articles of questionable utility, will they want to come back to that site in the future?
Worse, as Google puts more emphasis on its searchers’ intentions over the years, will this type of content with poor “context” stand any chance of ranking high in searches? How about in the coming years, as artificial intelligence plays a bigger role in filtering out poor content?
To me, that approach is an uphill battle against the wind. People like Tiko will put in more time and effort and still get weaker results.
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Let’s look at a more intelligent approach.
A guest blog link builder (we’ll call her Mary) has cleverly aligned her strategy to put the wind at her back. As time goes on she’ll get better results with less effort, making her strategy both efficient and future-safe.
How does Mary do it?
First, Mary searches for websites in her targeted niches with a decent URL and domain authority of UR40/DR42 or higher.
She reviews each site to get a feel for how the people behind it approach content growth. Have the site’s owner(s) invested the time and effort to improve their content, website’s presentation, and increase its audience popularity in the last 12 months? Or are they just “milking the cash cow” by publishing any content that comes in, rather than investing in new high-quality content?
In other words, Mary takes the smart step of filtering out websites that lack a long-term plan for staying on Google’s good side, or even a plan to sustain their growth trajectory.
Mary understands that whatever time, money, and effort she puts into acquiring backlinks from those sites, she will run a risk of losing everything when Google’s starts to significantly devalue those sites. That’s what happened this past decade with the site EzineArticles.
Second, for the sites that pass step #1 above, Mary takes a deeper look at their organic web traffic of each website in the past 12 months, looking for a trajectory of traffic growth. She also checks their link building approach to gauge the savviness of the SEO team behind each website. If the web traffic and link building approach are good, the site should generate more significant results, which in turn will benefit Mary’s guest posts on those sites.
One more important factor Mary considers when analyzing websites is the broader trends and events that could have caused web traffic fluctuations. Events such as the Covid-19 pandemic’s city lockdowns, Black Lives Matter protests, and presidential elections can cause anomalies in the traffic data (as of November 2020). In such cases you might want to look further back—maybe 24 months—to get a sense of the site’s traffic growth.
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Here’re key indicators Mary expects to see from a promising site:
- They publish “high-context” content that is insightful and helpful for the audience. The content is presented and does not stick to the tired layout where an image appears at the top and everything after is text.
- They optimize each article well so viewers can easily see related articles as they browse the page.
- They continuously optimize their web pages to load fast, especially on mobile devices.
- Upon publishing new guest post articles, the site’s admin makes sure each article’s URL is submitted to Google for indexing—and also makes sure that it gets indexed successfully. Mary tracks down guest posts published on the site in the last three months to see whether most of them have been indexed by Google.
Many typical blog sites out there don’t go to that extent for you, especially in terms of on-page optimization. Oftentimes your article may sit on the site, published, for months or even years without having been submitted by the site admin for indexing by Google. (And if Google hasn’t indexed your guest post page then its backlink won’t pass any “link juice” to your target site—no matter how high the UR/DR stats.)
- They don’t just count on guest post articles to grow their site’s content. They invest in fresh and insightful content of their own, including teaming up with linchpins and influencers in their respective categories to further enrich their site’s content and widen their reach.
Given users’ ever-shorter attention spans, a text summary alone is not enough to grab the viewer’s attention at first glance. The best sites use video summaries positioned at the top of their articles to enhance the attractiveness and stickiness of their content.
Better yet, they promote those video summaries on social media platforms such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, with backlinks to the original articles on their website. This attracts even more new visitors and amplifies their content via social shares.
- They have the author’s profile set up to show all the articles published by that individual. This allows guest bloggers to showcase their work to potential clients or partners in a professional way.
Why does that matter? With events like the COVID-19 pandemic and global financial instability the gig economy is growing fast. That means more competition for freelance workers. Thus, to position yourself to stand out better as a guest blog marketer, you need a great platform to showcase your work. This example from HOMEiA shows what you should be striving to achieve.
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Last, don’t overlook the site’s domain name and its brand strategy. A good domain name selected for a website right from the outset helps to promote the brand efficiently. A short and catchy domain name helps people recall it quickly and remember it longer.
Website founders with good digital marketing experience and foresight often invest in a good domain name right from the start. They know that we can improve the website’s UR/DR statistics over time, but it is much harder and more complex to transfer the domain authority from the old domain to a new one many years down the road.
That is not to say that an easily pronounced and remembered domain is more important than the site’s authority. Combined, though, a good domain and an intelligent strategy like the one described above are indicators that the people behind the website have a good long-term strategic vision for growing their brand.
If you can get a backlink from a domain like Economist.com, NYtimes.com, or WSJ.com, it will go a long way in growing your site’s profile.
You might be wondering whether there are enough sites out there that meet all the criteria I’ve just outlined. If you focus only on these sites for your guest blog strategy, will it be too little?
Not at all. You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, which describes the phenomenon in which the top 20 percent of your activities brings in 80% of your results, and all the rest of activities combined only bring in 20%. I acknowledge that at this point there are a small number of such sites online. But I believe they are the top 20 percent of sites (within your content category), where you’ll get the biggest, most lasting impact from your backlinks. Work smarter, not harder. Less is more.
When you’ve maxed out the best sites, you can try to gain some backlinks from the other 80 percent—but I wouldn’t spend too much time on it. Instead, I would invest my time in creating a huge store of beneficial content (like this article!) and gain natural backlinks and social shares for years to come.
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In conclusion, there are many ways to build organic backlinks for your site or your clients’ sites with guest blogging, but a more sustainable, efficient, and safe way is the one I have laid out above.
Having written many useful articles like this one over the past decade, and having published them on a variety of sites for backlinks (including EzineArticles), I have learned that my investment of time, money, and effort into guest blogging on sites with high standards has brought me a more durable benefit over the years.
Now, you have the information to make a decisions that will bring your game to the next level.
Again, in your guest blogging journey, you should consider the importance of keeping the wind at your back—so you can move forward easier in the long run as search engines become increasingly intelligent. I hope you find this article helpful. Please share it on your Facebook page so this article can fulfill its duty in helping others like you. Thanks in advance!